NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On his 81st birthday, Ray Yoder completed a journey four decades and 5 million miles in the making.

He visited his 645th Cracker Barrel Old Country Store on Aug. 28, meaning he has now been to every Cracker Barrel in the entire country.

Donned in a white cowboy hat and jeans, Yoder arrived at a brand new Cracker Barrel in Portland, Oregon, to grand celebration. His wife, Wilma, stood by his side, a bright bouquet of sunflowers and pink roses in her hand.

A sign outside the store read: “Welcome Ray and Wilma.” Gift bags and multiple media crews greeted them, along with a line of clapping smiling Cracker Barrel waitresses.

Yoder started the quest close to 40 years ago after first eating at a Cracker Barrel in Nashville near the Opryland Hotel. Wilma Yoder soon joined her husband on the journey that took them to 44 states.

Ray and Wilma have been married for 60 years. They have four grown children and have lived on the same small farm in Goshen, Ind., nearly all their lives.

Cracker Barrel, which is headquartered in Lebanon, Tenn., paid for the Yoders to visit the final restaurant to complete their journey.

“Well everybody does something, usually anyway. So we thought we would do this and it would be fun,” Ray Yoder said Aug. 28 at his final Cracker Barrel.

Though Ray Yoder admits the restaurant wasn’t love at first pancake, it soon became his comfort food and happy place.

“Let me assure you,” Yoder said just weeks before completing the journey, “it didn’t take long before I knew it was my home away from home.”

Just the right place to celebrate a birthday.


Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Author photo
JESSICA BLISS
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.